Week In Review: Manufacturing, Design, Test

3D printing and ethics debate; foundry rankings; mixed ATE market; high-voltage SOI.


The technology of 3D “bioprinting” (the medical application of 3D printing to produce living tissue and organs) is advancing so quickly that it will spark a major ethical debate on its use by 2016, according to Gartner. At the same time, 3D printing of non-living medical devices such as prosthetic limbs, combined with a burgeoning population and insufficient levels of healthcare in emerging markets, is likely to cause an explosion in demand for the technology by 2015.

Troubled Renesas continues to struggle. Following a series of layoffs, plant closures and divestitures, the Japanese chipmaker has sold a 300mm fab to Sony. Sony has acquired the Tsuruoka Factory of Renesas Yamagata Semiconductor Co. Ltd.

With the Renesas fab, Sony will establish Sony Semiconductor Corp. Yamagata Technology Center. The fab will serve as a new production site for Sony’s CMOS image sensors.

IC Insights released its foundry rankings. TSMC remained the leader with almost $20 billion in sales in 2013. In fact, TSMC’s 2013 sales were over 4X that of second-ranked GlobalFoundries and 10X the sales of the fifth-ranked foundry SMIC. There are only three IDM foundries in the ranking—Samsung, IBM, and MagnaChip. Samsung was easily the largest IDM foundry in 2013 with over 8X the sales of IBM, the second-largest IDM foundry.

Advantest posted its results. The ATE giant saw a demand for memory testers, but non-memory systems “faced headwinds,” according to the firm. In addition, Advantest plans to merge a subsidiary, Japan Engineering Co, Ltd., into the company. The unit engages in the development and sales of burn-in systems.

Advantest has announced the launch of its new low-cost, multi-purpose terahertz spectroscopy system, the TAS7400 Series.

X-FAB Silicon Foundries announced its collaboration with Imec to offer multi-project wafer runs through Imec’s IC service. This involves X-FAB’s 0.18-micron SOI HV process (XT018) and a junction-isolated HV process (XH018). The offered service enables startups and academic institutions throughout Europe to access X-FAB’s technology.

Soitec Lighting, a division of Soitec, has unveiled its new T8 LED tube product family for the North American market. This line of solid-state replacement products for fluorescent T8 tubes compliments Soitec’s existing European tube series.

Applied Materials presented seven companies with awards at its annual Executive Supplier Forum for helping meet the company’s strategic business goals in 2013.

BroadPak announced the availability of the semiconductor industry’s first configurable 2.5D/3D silicon interposer platform that can be used simultaneously for prototyping and high-volume production. This new technology enables companies to have access to customized 2.5D/3D silicon interposer in just 10 days with the option of immediate release to high-volume manufacturing.

FormFactor announced restructuring and cost reductions to improve company profitability. These actions will eliminate approximately 61 positions worldwide with expected savings of about $1 million in the first quarter of 2014.

MRSI Systems, a developer and manufacturer of turnkey chip placement and dispensing systems, has completed a leveraged buyout of assets from parent company Newport. Led by a private investment group comprised of MRSI’s senior leadership and investment companies Massachusetts Growth Capital and Boston Private Bank & Trust, along with additional guidance from Boston Financial Resources and Villeo Capital, the deal, valued at $6 million, was the final step in a two-part purchase process.

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